Regular safety training could prevent wind farm deaths, study claims

Wind turbines.
Wind turbines.

Wind farm workers are putting themselves in mortal danger if safety training is not kept up to date, a new study has found.

Research published today by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) claims that wind farm technicians often struggle to recall key safety instructions.

Testing 30 wind technicians, researchers found that average competency levels dropped off dramatically within one month without fresh training being provided.

Union leaders have been calling for increased safety training following a number of incidents at Scottish wind farms in recent years.

A 74-year-old technician died in January after becoming trapped at a wind farm in in East Ayrshire where he succumbed to freezing temperatures.

Last year, a 37 year old Portuguese worker plunged to his death at Scottish Power’s Kilgallioch wind farm in South Ayrshire.

Current guidance from trade associations RenewableUK and the Global Wind Organisation requires operators to have rescue training every two years.

Kenneth Lawani, lecturer and researcher in construction management at GCU, said: “The research shows the level of skill and knowledge drops rapidly after a month and progressively afterward.

“Every time you fly in a plane, you receive a full safety briefing to remind you of what happens in an emergency. If you work offshore, every time you embark on a helicopter ride, you watch a video of what you need to do in case there’s a crash.

“Why don’t we have something like that for wind turbine technicians? Accidents don’t happen every day but if something goes wrong, it can be fatal.”

The GCU research team, which includes Mr Lawani and Professors Billy Hare and Iain Cameron, believe video technology and mobile apps can offer a cost-effective way to deliver top-up refresher training, specifically focused on emergency rescue procedures.

Mr Lawani added: “In a real-life situation, panic can set in but if the knowledge is fresh in your mind, it can save your life.

“For many organisations it’s not practical to run regular, life-sized rescue and emergency simulations.”